Politics in Social Media

… we forget the rules of civil engagement when we can hide behind our screen names and computer screens and lash out.

by Shadra Bruce

facebook-1558618_1280The other day, a friend of mine posted a short message on Facebook that said simply, “Rest in Peace TK” in reference to the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. A mutual acquaintance of ours on Facebook used that message as an opportunity to respond to the comment with a politically motivated (and insulting) message about Ted Kennedy, the Kennedy family, and Democrats in general.

The general belligerence of the message resulted in this man being removed from the friend list.

I don’t have a problem with political sparring. In fact, I think it is a healthy way to prevent myself from becoming so determined to keep my own point of view that I fail to see others. I love debating issues and learning new facts while defending my own beliefs and helping others understand why I believe the way I do. I thrive on the conversations I have with friends and family, no matter how differently they believe than I do, because we are all celebrating the freedom we have as citizens of the United States to have a voice.  I will even change my opinion based on new information.

Unfortunately, the Internet, particularly social media sites, has allowed us all to become insulated from the real people that exist behind the messages and icons we all have online. We forget that the people we talk to (or have on our list of friends) are more than just their daily comments, and we forget the rules of civil engagement when we can hide behind our screen names and computer screens and lash out.

If you feel passionately about something, engage people in discussion about it; volunteer with your political party or spend time being active in your community. If you have better solutions than the ones being offered, run for office or contact your representatives and make suggestions about ways to improve society.  But we need to stop this form of online guerilla warfare, in which one sneaks in, does what damage can be done and sneaks out without any real engagement, stripping us of the ability to have meaningful dialogue about important issues.